With a band name like Surfer Blood, you’d probably expect their debut album Astro Coast to feature at least a few beach-inspired surf tunes. Hell, the cover even sports a chopped-up photo of a great white shark, a surfer’s worst nightmare. But appearances can be deceiving. Astro Coast could easily be classified as surf rock, but it is much more than that. Allow me to explain.
Much like Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor, Astro Coast makes for a tough first listen, though for very different reasons. Whereas The Monitor initially sounds chaotic and overwhelming, Astro Coast comes off sounding unemotional and lifeless. After a few listens I was ready to give up.
Luckily I didn’t. Quite surprisingly, I found myself drawn to “Slow Jabroni,” one of the longest and slowest tracks on the album. The song is a tale of two halves. The first half lurches by slowly, riding a lethargic, reverb-soaked guitar riff. Then at around the 3:25 mark the song shifts gears. The pace quickens and the track comes roaring to life. It might be tempting to just skip the first half, but the song wouldn’t sound quite as sweet without it.
As it turns out, “Slow Jabroni” was the first domino. Once it fell, it didn’t take long for the rest of the album to follow. With each listen, I found myself appreciating different parts of different songs: the thunderous intro to “Floating Vibes,” the random cat meow on “Twin Peaks” (also the way John Paul Pitts belts out the lyric “Why is everything a chore / I’m too young to be defeated”), and the even more random mention of Barack Obama on “Catholic Pagans.” Somehow it all works.
I no longer think Astro Coast lacks emotion. It might be buried in tons of reverb, but it’s definitely there, waiting to be discovered. But only if you have the patience.